UCLA Football Needs to Win in 2020
Spring Training Canceled
March 19, 2020
The coronavirus outbreak has canceled all springs sports around the country and may even cancel the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, which are scheduled to start on July 24th. UCLA football has been affected by this shutdown of athletics, with spring football being canceled. But with the hope that the UCLA football season will go on as scheduled, we decided to look at UCLA football and their hopes for a winning season in 2020.
UCLA football is currently going through their roughest stretch in school history. They have had four consecutive losing seasons, the first time in UCLA football history that has happened. The Bruins averaged 43,848 fans per game in 2019, their worst attendance number since moving to the Rose Bowl in 1982. The Bruins have not won a conference championship since 1998, the longest stretch ever without a conference championship.
Head coach Chip Kelly is in his third season with the Bruins. The Bruins are 7-17 under his watch and have struggled on defense to stop anyone. The Bruins have gone 0-6 in nonconference play under Kelly in his first two seasons. That has put UCLA in a hole in both the 2018 and 2019 seasons, with the team coming into conference play with an 0-3 record in both seasons.
It has reached a point in Westwood where the Bruins need to start winning. The 2020 schedule is very favorable to the Bruins and should give the Bruins their first opportunity for a winning season under Kelly. The Bruins open with the New Mexico State University Aggies at home on August 29th. The Aggies are 5-19 over the past two seasons and just lost their starting quarterback, who decided to enter the transfer portal last week as a graduate transfer.
This is a "money game" for New Mexico State, with the Aggies collecting $1.3 million from UCLA for their efforts. The Bruins should win this game. The following week the Bruins travel to Hawaii to play the Rainbow Warriors in Honolulu. Hawaii is coming off a successful 10-5 season that included victories over Arizona and Oregon State, but will be without their head coach, Nick Rolovich, who left for the Washington State head coaching job.
They also lost their star quarterback, Cole McDonald, who decided to forgo his senior season to enter the 2020 NFL draft. This is a very winnable game for the Bruins. The third and last nonconference game is against the San Diego State Aztecs in San Diego. This is a bus trip game for the Bruins and a payback game. SDSU won at the Rose Bowl last season, their first win in football history versus the Bruins. They are now 1-21-1 vs. the Bruins in football.
The conference schedule is also very favorable. The Bruins play five of their nine conference games at home. They do not play Oregon or Washington in 2020, the two best teams in the conference. They play USC at home in the Rose Bowl. They also get Stanford and Utah in the Rose Bowl as well. The toughest conference road games this season for the Bruins will be at Arizona State and at Cal.
Recruiting has improved and the speed on the team is impressive, particularly on the offensive side of the ball. At running back, UCLA is loaded with sprint champions. Kazmeir Allen was the CIF state champion in the 100 meters at 10.44 in 2018. Keegan Jones was Tennessee state champion in the 200 meters at 21.57. Christian Grubb was the CIF Southern Section champion in the 100, 200 and triple jump.
Explosive Demetric Felton will be the likely starter at running back, although he is often used as a receiver, comparable to Austin Ekeler of the Chargers. The Bruins also added graduate transfer running back Brittain Brown from Duke. Along with the talent at running back, they also return three of their five starting offensive lineman.
The key will be at quarterback and on the defensive side of the ball. Quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson has shown flashes of brilliance but needs to be consistent. DTR needs to improve his completion percentage and accuracy, reduce the turnovers and do a better job of using his athletic ability to help keep offensive drives moving.
The defense ranked 10th in the Pac-12 in total yards allowed at 456.3 per game and 11th in points per game at 34.8 points per game. As a comparison, Utah had the top ranked defense in the Pac-12, allowing 256.2 yards per game and 13.2 points per game. While no one expects the Bruins defense to be at the level of the Utah defense, there needs to be improvement if the Bruins are going to be competitive and get back to playing winning football in Westwood.